Amina was born ca. 1533, in Zazzau, which is now known as Zaria. Zaria is a province that resides in modern-day Nigeria. She was the daughter of Bakwa of Turunku and she was born into prominence. Her family’s wealth was a result of the goods that they sold and traded: leather, cloth, horses, salts, kola, and metals that were imported.
After Bakwa died in 1566, Amina’s younger brother, Karama, was crowned King of Zazzau. Zaria, Amina’s sister, fled the province and very little is known about her. Amina chose to direct her attention to the Zazzau military. Despite Bakwa being a peaceful ruler, she led the Zazzau cavalry into many battles, establishing herself as a military leader.
Through a myriad of military achievements, Amina secured immense wealth, numerous accolades, and power for the people of Zazzau. As an individual, she gained the respect of her people. She gained so much respect from her people that after Karama died, she was coronated and embraced as the queen of Zazzau.
During her 34-year-reign, Queen Amina led her military into many battles with the intent to expand Zazzau’s borders. By forcing neighboring rulers into submission as her vassals, she ensured that her traders would be granted safe passage along various routes. This increased the province’s overall wealth and power.
Since Queen Amina’s people were skilled metal workers, she was able to introduce new metal technology to her military. She introduced metal armor, iron helmets, and chain mail which were used later by European soldiers during the medieval period.
Queen Amina fortified her military by creating borders around her military camps. She had walls of earth constructed as protective borders. Within the walls, towns and villages developed. The walls were known as Amina’s Walls and they remain in the same position that they were built in all those centuries ago.
It is said that Queen Amina died in battle at Atagara in Nigeria, ca. 1610, near the age of 50. Her lineage ended with her death because she never married nor bore children. She would take a temporary husband after each battle and then condemn him to death after having sex with him. Because of her ferocity as a ruler and warrior, she earned the moniker Amina, daughter of Nikatau, a woman as capable as a man.
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